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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

U.S./Canadian roads' four-month traffic totals still elicit intermodal smile, carload frown


U.S. railroads in April continued their up-and-down 2002 freight-traffic trend: Intermodal moves rose 7.4 percent (49,977 units) — paced by an 11.6 percent (54,868) container-move increase — while carloads fell 2.5 percent (33,499 units) compared with April 2001, according to Association of American Railroads data released May 2.
Stone and gravel carloadings rose 7.6 percent (5,994 units); motor vehicles and equipment, 6.3 percent (6,145 units); and chemicals, 5.7 percent (6,475 units). However, metallic-ore carloadings plunged 11.9 percent (7,502 units, followed by coal, 6.7 percent (36,467 units), and grain, 4.5 percent (3,719 units).
"Big coal stockpiles at electric utilities and relatively low electricity demand translate into reduced coal carloadings and lower overall rail traffic numbers," said AAR Vice President Craig Rockey in a prepared statement. "[But] of the 19 major commodity categories we track, carloadings in April rose in nine, compared with five or six in each of the first three months of this year."
During 2002's first four months, U.S. roads totaled 5,441,765 carloads, down 3.5 percent, and 2,884,306 trailers and containers, up 1.4 percent, compared with the same 2001 period. Total volume was estimated at 472.8 billion ton-miles, dropping 2.0 percent.
Meanwhile, Canadian railroads in April increased carloads 0.7 percent (1,855 units), paced by non-metallic minerals shipments rising 38.2 percent (2,221 carloads); vehicles and equipment, 9.3 percent (5,587 carloads); and chemicals, 8.6 percent (4,837 carloads).
For the year's first four months, Canadian roads totaled 1,030,778 carloads,
dropping 3.9 percent (42,196 units), and 608, 470 trailers and containers, rising 4.0 percent (23,149 units) compared with last year.
On a combined cumulative-volume basis, 16 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads during 2002's first 17 weeks totaled 6,472,543 carloads, declining 3.6 percent (240,705 units), and 3,496,060 trailers and containers, increasing 1.9 percent (64,981 units), compared with 2001's first 17 weeks.
The overall freight-traffic news was much better for major Mexican road TFM S.A. de C.V., which increased April carloads 38.3 percent (9,436 units) and intermodal originations 80.8 percent (5,956 units) compared with April 2001. During the year's first four months, TFM increased carloads 3.7 percent (4,260 units) and intermodal originations 13.2 percent (4,784 units) compared with last year.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/3/2002